Deril Gonzales is among Santa Fe's most hated men. He's hoping his department's latest collaboration brings with it a wave of good PR.
Gonzales, an employee of the city's Parking Division, is busy outfitting a foursome of surplus mechanical parking meters inside the Arts Commission Community Gallery (201 W Marcy St.).
"It's pretty simple," he says, wiping sweat from his brow, tightening the newly refurbished meter onto its pole and fastening it to a rolling cart.
Colorful and vibrant, these aren't your run-of-the-mill parking meters.
Each was embellished by a local nonprofit as part of a program dubbed Change 4 Change—a joint effort among the gallery, the Parking Division and City Councilor Patti Bushee, who got pitched the idea by high school student Eva Ross.
“They’re gonna be fully functional and operational,” Community Gallery manager Robert Lambert says. The cart will be placed outside the locale daily, starting this Wednesday, enticing passersby to part with their change and destine it to
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Lambert says the concept came about naturally when Bushee proposed the fundraising opportunity utilizing the city’s discarded meters. That led to “this organic connection of the materials at hand and the proposed project.”
“It’s helping the community; I think it’s a good project,” Gonzales says, as he inspects the finished lineup. He points out that each meter can fit approximately $7 at a time.
Parking Division will be responsible for regular audits of the art meters. Each one is outfitted with a barcode, Lambert explains, which makes it easier to keep track of the monies.
ArtFeast’s anthropomorphic meter is outfitted with a bright purple shirt and a contrasting black, branded baseball cap, while the one by the Boys and Girls Club takes a deeper route and commemorates the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
“Our art teacher actually went home and meditated on it,” program administrator Jennifer Cale tells SFR.
“When we got the project proposal was when Sandy Hook happened, and the kids were very concerned.”
Their meter depicts kids holding hands and includes baseball, American flag and heart-shaped stickers.
“It was a good way for them to express their own fears and condolences to those children,” Cale says.
FACT transformed their meter into a googly-eyed owl and put its money where its mouth is by replacing the bird of prey’s feathers with pennies.
“They call it ‘The Meter Monster,’” program manager Elizabeth Crumpler jokes.
Completed over a period of four weeks by a dedicated team of 8- to 11-year-olds—along with the donation tie-in—Crumpler considers the program a confidence builder and trusts that kids will walk away from the experience with “a sense of importance.”
“Part of our methodology is public exhibition,” she says. “Students having the opportunity to exhibit art in a public forum is really validating for them.”
Earth Care’s is the more politically charged of the lot. It features a branch explosion that emanates from a papier-mâché globe. The branches host a bevy of leaves made from recycled aluminum cans and emblazoned by youth ally organizers with messages like “Right 2 love”—which includes two female gender symbols; “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!” and a poem that reads: “Roses are red, violets are blue / society is corrupting / and brainwashing you.”
“The idea of the piece is that it’s representing the change that the young people in our community are hoping for,” Earth Care program director Bianca Sopoci-Belknap says.
While it might rub some people the wrong way, Sopoci sees their meter as a vehicle to spread a communal, progressive voice. “Even if folks don’t share the vision, hopefully they’ll be inspired by it,” she says.
Lambert anticipates the fundraising project, along with its “experimental” pieces, will take off.
“I think it’s a fun, creative way of doing it—it’s kind of like the city of Chicago’s CowParade thing, or something along those lines.”
He also hopes it becomes a Santa Fe mainstay.
“It’s the first year we’ve done it, so it may turn into something that we do every year—including different groups,” he says. “We can always reuse the cart, and I know there’s meters laying around.”
Gonzales’ dream is more immediate.
“Maybe people will start cutting some slack on the enforcement guys,” he says with a laugh.